Drop Down Menus CSS Drop Down Menu Pure CSS Dropdown Menu

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Armada Dice part II: Squadron to Ship

With wave 5 on the horizon, I want to put into context the stats for the squadron we already have. As everyone has seen, wave 3 has made a very powerful impact on the squadron game in Armada, because of the cheap activations, cheap squadron pushers and Bomber Command Center.

With the aid of a script I made, I can accurately calculate the damage based on clever ability usage. What does clever ability usage mean? It means not choosing the best order in which to resolve abilities, based on the initial roll

The aim of this blog post is two-fold: to show that there are clever paths to be taken when rerolling with simple rules of thumb that can be followed; to rank bombers based on their effectiveness taking into account the effect of Bomber Command Center and their cost.

X-wings

X-wings are the lowest efficiency bombers currently in the game, with only one red dice. Bomber Command Center in their case helps bring them in line with Y-wing in terms of expected damage. An X-wing with 2 Bomber Command Centers will do an average of 1.15 average damage, as opposed to a naked Y-wing which does 1. Of course, the efficiency is nowhere near, since the X-wing is 30% more expensive.

What about rerolls? With an X-wing and one BCC, you're only expected to reroll Accuracies and Blanks to get the best average result. In the diagram below, the center is the starting point, with the 5 possibilities of the red dice roll. On the next level, the red line represents the best choice, which is rerolling only in the case of the blank or accuracy.
What if we have 2 BCCs? Then the correct answer becomes rerolling all non-doubles on the first reroll, followed by blanks on the second roll. All in all, easy to remember!

To remember: While the X-wings have the lowest damage overall of all bombers, they benefit from having Bomber Command Center the most! 2BCCs increase their anti-ship damage by 50%!

Y-wings/TIE Bombers

Y-wings are the Rebel's cheap, no-fuss bomber option. 1 average damage with 1BCC, up to 1.25 and 1.44 with 2 BCCs! 44% damage increase is still very good! The TIE Bomber has of course the same damage output, but with fewer fleet points, so with greater overall efficiency in terms of anti-ship combat.

What about rerolls? Turns out this is more complicated. The average being 1, if you have a single reroll and you rolled a Hit, you have 2 options:
  • You are at average, be content with the result
  • Try your luck and go for the Hit/Crit
Both have the same average result, but the second option plays with variance a bit more, while the first option is safe!

If you have 2 rerolls, you can safely reroll Hits on the first reroll, followed by only-blank rerolls on the second reroll for safest and best average result!

Rule of thumb: No matter how many black dice rerolls you have, you can safely reroll hits on any reroll but the last! The last reroll is the one where you make the choice between safe and trying your luck! (but still with the same average result)

Firesprays

Almost not worth mentioning, since the rerolls are extremely intuitive. Anything that isn't a damage you can reroll. Overall they gain 30% damage from having 2BCCs.

B-wings 

With B-wings things get interesting. In terms of damage, they have the highest totals of any unnamed squadron and overall incredible efficiency.

As to rerolls, the priority seems to be the black dice. First make sure you have at least a Hit on that, then reroll the accuracy if you have rolled one. In the image below, all non-optimal choices and their respective consequences have been eliminated, so a red edge represents a correct choice. If there are two red edges, that means that both choices carry exactly the same weight, meaning they come out with the same average damage, no matter what.

Keyan is a special example (and now Ten Numb), because they're the only ones with 2 black dice and Keyan has a reroll capability built in!  Keyan benefits little, only 13% for a single BCC and 22.40% for 2 BCCs, but it takes him to an incredible 3 average damage!

His reroll rule of thumb is similar to Y-wings: Reroll Hits as long as you have rerolls left, otherwise reroll only blanks if you want to keep it safe!


Efficiency

So where does this take us? I have arranged the following table, where red columns are average damage, blue columns are benefits comparing to the vanilla scenario and white columns are efficiency, which I have defined as average damage per 10 points of squadron of that type. In this first table you can see how the X-wing gets to 1.15 average damage, trumping the vanilla Y-wing and TIE Bomber at 1 damage.







Default1BCC2BCC

AvgAvg/10pAvgBenefitAvg/10pAvgBenefitAvg/10p
1red (X-wing)0.750.581.0337.33%0.791.1553.33%0.88
1black (Y-wing/TIE Bomber)11.00/1.111.2525.00%1.25/1.391.4444.00%1.44/1.60
2blue1.50.831.8322.00%1.021.9530.00%1.08
1blue-black(B-wing)1.751.252.1422.29%1.532.3735.43%1.69
1blue-black + Toryn1.941.392.2214.43%1.592.4124.23%1.72
2black(w/o Keyan)212.4422.00%1.222.7236.00%1.36
2black(Keyan)2.51.252.8413.60%1.423.0622.40%1.53


The second table has efficiency calculated and sorted in descending order. The B-wing tops the list when taken with 2BCCs and is generally more efficient in all conditions.



Efficiency
B-wing + Toryn + 2BCC1.72
B-wing + 2BCC1.69
TIE Bomber + 2BCC1.6
B-wing + Toryn + BCC1.59
B-wing + BCC1.53
Keyan + 2BCC1.53
Y-wing + 2BCC1.44
Keyan + BCC1.42
TIE Bomber + BCC1.39

...

For B-wings, both 1BCC and 2BCC bring enough damage to be taken into consideration, although the first BCC brings the bigger boost in efficiency. I also considered B-wings with Toryn Farr nearby. As expected, Toryn Farr is weaker than a Bomber Command Center for an anti-ship of 1blue 1black. Of surprise is that the efficiency of an X-wing with 2 Bomber Command Centers is higher than that of a Vanilla Firespray!

To remember: Bomber Command Center transforms your mediocre bombers into decent bombers and good bombers into great bombers!

Cost of Flotillas 

But let's not get ahead of ourselves! Flotillas cost too, right? So you could argue that efficiency of squadrons has to take into account the cost of those flotillas with Bomber Command Center, 26 pts minimum for the Rebels and 31 pts for the Empire.

In the following table I have filled 134 points with a single squadron type and calculated the damage. Unrealistic, I know, but the point I'm going to make after this remains unchanged..

SquadronsPointsAvgEfficiency
Fleet of 13 Y-wings130131
13 Y-wings + BCC15616.251.04
13 Y-wings + 2 BCC18218.721.03
Fleet of 9 B-wings12615.751.25
Fleet of 9 B-wings + BCC15219.261.27
Fleet of 9 B-wings + 2 BCC17821.331.2
Fleet of 10 X-wings1307.50.58
Fleet of 10 X-wings + BCC15610.30.66
Fleet of 10 X-wings + 2 BCC18211.50.63
Fleet of 14 TIE Bombers126141.11
Fleet of 14 TIE Bombers + BCC15717.51.11
Fleet of 14 TIE Bombers + 2 BCC18820.161.07
Fleet of 7 Firesprays12610.50.83
Fleet of 7 Firesprays + BCC15712.810.82
Fleet of 7 Firesprays + 2 BCC18813.650.73
 
 

It seems that the efficiency is unchanged when taking this into account! So we end up paying the same per point of average damage as before! So what have we gained?
  • Activations, a flotilla is an extra activation on the battlefield
  • Points for squadrons beyond the 134 point mark, because flottillas can "carry their weight" by directly enhancing squadron damage
  • Decreasing variance of squadron rolls considerably: Even if the B-wings + flotillas generate the same average damage, the risk of blanks is removed
  • Extra anti-squadron fire
  • By having more damage per squadron, we concentrate firepower.
There's certainly things to lose:
  • Flotillas might be a liability since only one accuracy can ruin their day
  • More damage per squadron also means that you lose a lot of firepower for the same amount of HP lost. Individual squadrons are more important, because if you've only flotillas left, you can't do any damage with them. 

Conclusions 

This went a bit beyond a simple math article, since there are some lessons to be learned from this. Namely, that taking flotillas with BCC further increases your investment in bomber squadrons without increasing their efficiency, but eliminating variance. I admit I thought of flotillas with BCC as a damage multiplier, but it's more akin to a damage focusing element. You get more damage in per squadron activation and with less variation, this is incredibly valuable.

Correction: The second paragraph was a mess and I put 8 points for all my TIE Bomber calculations. Shows how much I play Empire, right?

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Armada Regionals 2016

I happened to be in London for a week, and I figured I'd stay for the weekend to attend an X-wing or Armada tournament. Lo and behold, there was an X-wing Regional at IQGames the weekend before and an Armada Regional the weekend following my trip. With no tickets left for X-wing, the choice was made for me! The venue was in Stockport, near Manchester, at Element Games North West Gaming Centre.

The list I have had most success with leading up to the Regional was this:

Author: Chilligan
Faction: Rebel Alliance
Points: 400/400

Commander: General Dodonna
Assault Objective: Precision Strike
Defense Objective: Contested Outpost
Navigation Objective: Superior Positions

[ flagship ] MC80 Battle Cruiser (103 points)
-  General Dodonna  ( 20  points)
-  Gunnery Team  ( 7  points)
-  XX-9 Turbolasers  ( 5  points)
= 135 total ship cost

Nebulon-B Escort Frigate (57 points)
Yavaris  ( 5  points)
-  Raymus Antilles  ( 7  points)
= 69 total ship cost

GR-75 Medium Transports (18 points)
Bright Hope  ( 2  points)
-  Expanded Hangar Bay  ( 5  points)
-  Bomber Command Center  ( 8  points)
= 33 total ship cost

GR-75 Medium Transports (18 points)
-  Boosted Comms  ( 4  points)
-  Bomber Command Center  ( 8  points)
= 30 total ship cost

3 B-Wing Squadrons ( 42 points)
3 X-Wing Squadrons ( 39 points)
4 Y-Wing Squadrons ( 40 points)
1 HWK-290 ( 12 points)

http://armadawarlords.hivelabs.solutions/view_list.php?token=47659

It's a very powerful list, but not extremely flexible. Of the hammer and anvil type, you have the blob of fighters and the small ships going steady, while the Liberty swoops and finishes up ships and squadrons.

I have also been having a lot of fun with this Madine Liberty:

MC80 Battle Cruiser (103 points)
Mon Karren  ( 8  points)
-  Raymus Antilles  ( 7  points)
-  Gunnery Team  ( 7  points)
-  Engine Techs  ( 8  points)
-  H9 Turbolasers  ( 8  points)
-  Spinal Armament  ( 9  points)
-  Leading Shots  ( 4  points)
= 154 total ship cost

It can easily take out 2 transport per turn and will get in the most impossible of positions. I just pair it off with anti-squadron fighters and Yavaris for a very fun to play list. I hadn't considered going dual Liberty.

A third, distant option was to play Ackbar with an MC30 and 2 AF MKIIs, with the MC30 as follows:

MC30c Scout Frigate (69 points)
Foresight  ( 8  points)
-  Intel Officer  ( 7  points)
-  Veteran Gunners  ( 5  points)
-  Electronic Countermeasures  ( 7  points)
-  Turbolaser Reroute Circuits  ( 7  points)
= 103 total ship cost

The idea with this one was to have one heavy-hitter that is super-precise and cannot be braced without repercussions.

In the end, I settled on a variant of my initial list. I tossed the commander to a medium transport, dropped a Y-wing (going to only 10 squadrons) and put in Mon Karren and Leading Shots. Both upgrades are gold, of course, but I felt I couldn't fit them in before. The plan with this is to use the hangar transport and Yavaris as spear-heads, with boosted comms transport bringing up the rear. Mon Karren either covers the flank or comes in one round after the fighters hit first to finish off some ships.

The final list was:

BYwangs
Author: Chilligan
Faction: Rebel Alliance
Points: 400/400

Commander: General Dodonna
Assault Objective: Precision Strike
Defense Objective: Contested Outpost
Navigation Objective: Superior Positions

MC80 Battle Cruiser (103 points)
Mon Karren  ( 8  points)
-  Gunnery Team  ( 7  points)
-  Leading Shots  ( 4  points)
= 122 total ship cost

Nebulon-B Escort Frigate (57 points)
Yavaris  ( 5  points)
-  Raymus Antilles  ( 7  points)
= 69 total ship cost

[ flagship ] GR-75 Medium Transports (18 points)
-  General Dodonna  ( 20  points)
Bright Hope  ( 2  points)
-  Boosted Comms  ( 4  points)
-  Bomber Command Center  ( 8  points)
= 52 total ship cost

GR-75 Medium Transports (18 points)
-  Flight Commander  ( 3  points)
-  Expanded Hangar Bay  ( 5  points)
-  Bomber Command Center  ( 8  points)
= 34 total ship cost

3 B-Wing Squadrons ( 42 points)
1 HWK-290 ( 12 points)
3 X-Wing Squadrons ( 39 points)
3 Y-Wing Squadrons ( 30 points)

Card view link
Fleet created with Armada Warlords

The objectives are fairly obvious for a squadron fleet, the only other difference is that I've chosen to put a flight commander on one of the transports, to enhance actual activation range or to mitigate running over squadrons in tight spaces.

The list has a total of 10 squadrons, 4 activations and 9 deployments, which I am pretty happy with.

Battle report - Round 1

My first round was against Jim Murray. He had Rieekan with 3 transports, Admonition and Yavaris.  He took first player and chose Precision Strike. His Admonition wanted to deploy last, but he had the same number of activations as I did so he wasn't able to. I, on the other hand, put the Liberty on the other side, so it would enter combat almost horizontally while squadrons clashed in the middle.

He charged with Dutch and Wedge on a B-wing that was slightly exposed (seen in the picture) and took it out, but even without Yavaris' ability I was able to focus fire with everything I had to take out Wedge after he had activated. He had Yavaris with flight commander and fighter coordination team, with a trailing transport giving squadron tokens. Unfortunately, by the time his Yavaris was able to use its ability, he was running out of squadrons.


Admonition came in to kill my Nebulon, but my positioning allowed only a shot on the front hull zone, so I was able to tank some of the damage. I escaped with 1 hull, while his Admonition was coralled by transports in the middle of my fighter-bombers. On that same round, the Liberty took out both a transport and his Yavaris at medium range (hurray for leading shots). His Admonition, after making a transport kill, escaped the bombers (but had no tokens) and was only taking one side shot from the liberty at long range. It was a double hit and Admonition died, making the game a 10-1.




Jim was very fun to play with and overall the game was much closer than the outcome showed. A better roll on his Admonition or me not taking out all ships could have lessened the win for sure. It's also funny to note that my bombers didn't get a single Hit+Crit the whole game, despite me having 2 Bomber Command Centers and pushing always for the second reroll.



Battle report - Round 2

My second round opponent was James Stead, with a Motti ISD, Demo, Raider, Gozanti and a sprinkling of TIE Fighters (/w Mauler Mithel). He also took first player and chose Superior positions. I deployed directly in front of his ISD, with the Liberty on the side to protect the transports from Demo.


My plan was to take advantage of his low fighter screen to quickly take down the ISD, while making sure that Demo couldn't just barge in and kill my carriers. I was partially successful in that he kept Demo behind, but the ISD was slow to take damage. Fighters took out most of the shields and the liberty put in a couple of damage cards, but still it was not enough. The ISD was full of repair commands and started discarding damage cards and sprinted away at speed 3. I was able to catch the Raider off-guard and one-shot it due to the small traffic jam that was created by my Liberty deployment, but the Gladiator was still full-HP and coming to kill the Liberty. Yavaris and a transport died in the same round from the ISD and I wasn't able to get the second double-tap.

This was where Dodonna came into play, because I was able to sneak a nasty crit on Demo:

Ruptured Engine x2 - Ship - after you execute a manuever, if your speed on your speed dial is >1, suffer 1 damage

This made Demo slow down and not use Engine techs, allowing me to finish it off with a few fighters and back-arc shots from the Liberty. It turned out to be a 50MoV win (6-5), but it was incredibly close. The ISD repaired all the damage cards from what I remember, I don't think I could have taken it down without a second volley of double-tapping B-wings.

James was  a very tactical player and the entire approach took a long time and was pretty tense!

Battle Report - Round 3

After round 2 there were 3 players with 16pts and one with 18pts. I played on table 2 (which ended up being the one streamed). My opponent was Justin Read, playing a brutal twin Liberty twin transport fleet with A-wings. He chose to be second player and I chose his Superior Positions (options were Fleet Ambush and Advanced Gunnery, both No-Nos against his fleet).

I deployed in the corner facing towards the interior of the board with speed 1, while he deployed in the opposite corner at speed 3. I think his plan was to do damage quickly, engage my squadrons, then get out.

He dispersed his A-wings to cover every angle but took a gamble with a couple of them to engage my main force. I was able to kill them and send 3 fighter-bombers to his front Liberty, preparing a double-tap with Yavaris on the following round. I activated first with Yavaris and did massive damage to the liberty (all tokens and shields, with a couple of hull). My Mon Karren took care of the rest. Yavaris did get in a nasty position, took two frontal shots from Liberties, but managed to survive (one was long-range and obstructed). And just in time as well! I had the hwk in a good position in front of the other Liberty, so Yavaris would double-tap again the following round.

A crucial mistake in this game was me not shooting against a transport in the turn where the second Liberty died. I think I chose to do a side-shot to rear and take a victory point instead, forgetting that I had gunnery teams. I guess I was excited about taking out the second liberty that I forgot the rest of his list.

Towards the end of the game I desperately tried to kill the transports but with no success. I couldn't kill one with a front arc short-range shot and the squadrons weren't helping. Justin managed to kill every one of my fighters using the transports and A-wings.

In the end the game was a 9-2. It was a good game, I think I did the right mix of going after big ships while also taking out an A-wing every once in a while. I think I made some mistakes in the late game so I didn't get the full win




Overall this was a very fun tournament. The organization was exquisite, with hot tea and coffee, sandwiches for lunch and muffins! I am glad I was able to participate and happy I came within a few shots of taking first prize! The first table had an incredible match that went from no ships destroyed to a 10-1 in a single round, so the winner of the regional definitely deserved it!

All my opponents were cool to play against, I hope I'll play you again sometime!




Thursday, 21 July 2016

Focus vs. Target Lock: A fresh look with R3 in mind




Introduction

Because of the blog post on poorgreypilot and the recent Mynock Squadron episode covering the R3 astromech, I felt that there were additional points that needed to be made. Namely the fact that R3 astromech shifts the balance between Target Lock and focus.
 
The debate on Target Lock vs. Focus is as old as the old core set. Which is better? Target Lock is purely offensive, can set up torpedo shots, carries over to the next round. Focus is temporary, but can be used for either attack or defense, as needed. I will talk about the established consensus (feel free to disagree on this or other aspects in the comments section), then I will try to explain why R3 shifts the balance between the two actions.

Math and Context

Let's start with the basic math: A single red die has 8 faces: 1 critical hit, 3 hits, 2 focus symbols and 2 blank faces. So the success rate for a single die is 4/8= 0.5 (50%). It is also rather easy to see that with a focus token you have 6/8=0.75 (75%) chances of a success. What about TL? Well, it's a bit more complicated, but you can break it down like this: You have your initial dice roll which gives you 50% chances of a success. In the other 50%, you get to reroll the die, which nets you another 50%. So the TL is 50% plus another 50% of the times you get to reroll, which means 75%, identical with focus!

To summarize:
  • An unmodified die gives you 50% with 1/8 chance of a critical hit
  • A focused die is 75% with 1/8 chance of a critical hit
  • A TL-ed die is 75% with 3/16 chance of a critical hit (the reroll grants us that)
So math-wise, for attack, there doesn't seem to be much a difference! The true difference comes from context:

For Target Lock:
  • If the ship you target locked dies, you lose the target lock
  • You cannot change targets if you target lock
  • You may keep the target lock for next round if you don't use it 
whereas for Focus:
  • You can spend it for attack or defense. If your Pilot skill is lower than your opponent, you may prioritize defense over attack on some of your ships (if 3 Academy Pilots have focus tokens and there's only one attacker, 2 can spend focus for attack while 1 can spend focus on defense if needed)
  • You can choose your target when you activate

Chance to spend 

The biggest difference, however, and one that I've never seen in written form anywhere, is the chance to spend. If you're the first to shoot, what is the chance you'll spend your token?

The main assumption is that you're spending the TL if you have less than the maximum number of hits/crits. If you're shooting at a low agility target and you're confident you're shooting the same target the following round, you can get away with keeping the TL at 2 out of 3 hits for example for a 6% boost in damage over 2 rounds (considering you focus the next one). This is a conversation in of itself.

With that assumption in mind, for a 3-dice shot you have:
  • chance to spend focus: 58%
  • chance to spend TL: 88%
In other words, with TL you have a 12% chance  of keeping your TL for the next round, with focus you have 40% chance of it being used defensively, not needing it for offense.

What is the source of this? Hidden information. Focus gives you complete information of how many extra results you're getting if you spend the token, with TL it's literally a dice roll. Reasons that people don't use Target Lock can also be psychological: how many times have you picked up the dice, spent the TL, rerolled, then got nothing? Even if, on average, the results are the same as with focus, the disappointment felt is real.

Where does R3 come into play?

Where am I going with this? The fact is that when you're using TL, you are discarding a lot of unused results. You're very likely ignoring whether they're blanks or focus symbols but the reality is that 50% of symbols that aren't hits or crits after rerolling are focus symbols. 

How many times are you going to roll perfect 3/3 with a single TL? How many times 4/4? My point is when you're using TL, the are many unused focus tokens. Otherwise said, there's a niche for R3 astromech usage where the impact on damage output is 0. 

What are those odds you say? For any red dice, there's a 7/8 chance that after rerolling you don't get a focus symbol (initial focus symbols are rerolled). So a 3-dice attack has 1 - (7/8)^3 = 33% chance of getting at least 1 focus it's not using. For a 4-dice attack it's 41%.

Assume you're playing with TLs instead of focus: you don't get any added defense, you have a slightly higher damage output (via keeping the token 12.5% of the time), and now you get 33% chance of an evade for 2 points.

Contrast this with Autothrusters, an extremely cost-efficient card, which is also at 2pts (but on a more precious slot, at least for a T70). If you're attacked only once, and it triggers, you get 61% of it generating an extra evade.

Or compare this to Shield Upgrade. This is half the points, and it needs to trigger only once before you get shot to make up its cost.

To summarize:
  • It is half as efficient as Autothrusters when you have one attacker at lower PS, but you have no range/arc restrictions, with better stats at range 1
  • It is much more efficient than a Shield upgrade if you get shot at least once after getting a token
  • It is a low-cost astromech that can be used with Integrated Astromech
  • Coupled with Comm Relay, it's a 5pt Shield upgrade that regenerates 33% of the time. 
  • It can be comboed with Autothrusters for extra tankiness.
  • Coupled with Juke, it's 33% chance of triggering Juke, while also retaining your offensive action

 Uses

All in all, I think there's a place for the R3 astromech. I'm not advocating its use, but it's not as bad as people say. I would use it on a high-PS T-70 that can't use R5-P9 or R2-D2 effectively. It's also best on a ship that is taking off-fire and isn't the centre of attention. Ello seems the best target, for now, the only high-PS T-70 that isn't Poe (until further HotR spoilers). He also can't use R2-D2 effectively (he wants to T-Roll) and R5-P9 reduces his damage output (actually, with the statistic that 40% of focus tokens aren't used..). Juke is the cherry on top and makes him quite dangerous.








Friday, 24 June 2016

The Great Battle of Yavin - The Preparation

It's been a while since I've written something on this blog. Finishing my PhD was part of the reason, but I haven't posted since then either. A battle report for the Yavin system open for 2016 seems like a good occasion to start writing regular posts again, especially since I think I did rather well! I'm going to start with a small post on my list choice and experience at the Regionals, then I will follow up with a post on the actual Open.

Just like in 2015, there was no X-wing Regional this year in Romania. So I was itching to find a place to go (in 2015 I went with a buddy to Salzburg Regionals - had loads of fun but no results).  The System Opens were also a good opportunity to play some quality matches, but I was undecided on whether to go and to which one. Then came along the announcement of Yavin, a System Open and a Regional in one! Too good an opportunity to miss! We formed a group of 3 and booked plane and expo tickets and we were off!

List building



 


But what to play? I had recent success with Imperial Veterans in the Team Covenant Open (Palpatine, Juno, Vessery) and I figured the expansion will surely be out by then (boy, was I wrong). I trained with Tractor Vessery, Inquisitor, Tomax the Crack Engine, which is quite a good list IMHO. It has a nasty alpha-strike at PS8 and can hold its own afterwards. You're a bit dependent on the Inquisitor to seal the deal in the endgame, because Tomax and Vessery are not the most maneuverable of ships, but otherwise it's very good. I was very confident with it and did very well in my training matches with it.


With the announcement that Imperial Veterans was not legal, I was suddenly without a list to play, with no time to put in the training as I did with the other list. So I scraped together a list with what I liked to play and knew was good. A lot of people like Whisper Omega Leader Palpatine, but OL always seems to do little damage in my games, especially early on. It can take on any ship 1v1, but it will be a long battle of attrition against most. In this meta I'm of the opinion that you need to shift the damage output towards the beginning of the game as much as possible. The inquisitor has a much higher damage output on soft targets, while also being harder to kill (especially when more than 1 ship is firing). Whisper has always been a strong pilot and is a good meta call right now, when the stressbot is rare and PS9 turrets have almost vanished. It's just that I have to take a focus more often instead of my usual evade, but seeing Phildo's games in the TCOpen I see that this can work. The list also has a higher damage output than the OL version when Whisper is cloaked, so you can actually delay Whisper if there's big threats for her in the opponent's list.

So a bare-bones Whisper would be VI, FCS, ACD, with the Inquisitor and Palpatine that's 99 pts. Four choices arise:
  • Do I leave the point for initiative? A good initiative bid is 97-98 for PS9 (96-97 currently for PS3), so 1pt does not buy me much. Dangerous PS9's are Han and Dengar, Han is rarely seen now. Dengar is much easier to take down though, and I have had a match with my list against Dengar+Bossk which went pretty well, not losing Whisper or the Inquisitor. Other PS9's will be primary arc ships, which I can hopefully dodge by moving afterwards. 
  • Do I take a 1pt crew? Intelligence Agent is very good on Whisper, it will help in a few games I'm sure, mostly against PS9's if I get initiative.
  • Do I take Electronic Baffle? It transforms the shuttle into a fighting monster, surprises the opponent in many ways (repeated stops, 3 banks with action). This upgrade increases the damage potential of the shuttle, so it was the upgrade I ended up taking.
  • I could also drop FCS and go for something else, but I'm leery of lowering Whisper's damage potential, even if it's not for the 1st round of combat.

Practice at Birmingham Regional 

Disclaimer: Somehow I was counting only on memory for the lists and games, I didn't account for the fact that 15 games over 3 days would become one big blur. I didn't even write down the points, and for the Regional event it's especially difficult since I lost many games.

So off I went to the Birmingham Regional on June 3rd. My expectations for the regional were low, since I wanted to practice for Yavin. I did use the regional bye though, since it allowed me 20 minutes of expo time right when it opened, the opportunity to see wave 9 and Armada wave 4 in person!

Due to specific circumstances, this was the 2nd time I was using a bye, and the first time I was not the only one! I was a bit surprised to find myself opposite someone with Nationals templates with 3 jumpmasters. I said I wanted the practice...

Game 2 was against this 3 jumpmaster list, of the Overclocked R4-Plasma variety. I think one lacked extra munitions and another had upgraded to bobba and proton to stay at 96 points. Having flown very few games against triple Jumpmasters, I set up Palpatine in the corner where the options were most open. The plan was to block with Palpatine using Baffle, since that forces them to 4 forward to get out, wasting torpedo opportunities. He sets them up in a line glued to each other (so a 1-turn would bump for each one), move I hadn't seen before. My Inquisitor and Whisper are more spread out, trying to get them from all sides and make them commit to a target. They leave their options open (and especially dangerous for the Inquisitor), so I power forward with Palpatine and Whisper. Problem is, I forget to decloak and lose my chance of a 1-on-1 exchange with a Scout. With no other shots that round, it would have been perfect. The place of engagement didn't favour him much due to asteroids, so I managed to sneak in with the Inquisitor and Whisper (not without taking damage though). The game was absolutely lost when I found myself head-on with a Jumpmaster at range 2 with Whisper. I had TL on some other jumpmaster, and I decided to barrel roll to get into range 1. I was off by a few millimeters, with no focus. I did 1 damage and because of all of this forgot to cloak. Of course Whisper was taken off the board shortly after.

Lessons learned: Don't forget to decloak, don't forget to cloak, previsualize Barrel rolls better (didn't learn this one properly). Fighting in the asteroid field was pretty good, but he forced me to switch targets so I couldn't get a decent modified shot with Whisper to take something off the board. In the end I got two half-points for Jumpmasters, because the Inquisitor is badass.

Game 3 was against a very interesting list: 2 Y-wings with TLT, Proximity Mines and Extra Munitions and a loaded-up Manaroo with K4 security droid. He played it very slow, I tried to come in from all sides (while still avoiding torps from Manaroo), so the Inquisitor was funneled into the jaws of death. I forgot about K-4 and I didn't register the 1-left free TL Manaroo did in the picture, so I was surprised when the following turn Manaroo turned, Barrel rolled and still got a torpedo off. Coupled with a TLT shot the previous turn, the Inquisitor was barely holding on. I managed to avoid Proximity mines with the Inquisitor and he didn't have room to maneuver to get others off, all while I was chipping away at his Y-wings with everything (shuttle included, mostly because of baffling). In the end I was able to edge out a win.

Lessons learned: Have a better approach plan, my Lambda was 1 turn too slow and the Inquisitor was 1 turn too fast.



Game 4 was against Zuckuss, Palob and Manaroo. He started in the middle, going slowly, I had the Inquisitor and Palpatine on my left and Whisper on the right. I assumed he would not turn for Whisper (a 2-turn with everybody), since that would put him in a bad position and I would potentially escape. I was wrong. Whisper had a torpedo incoming along with other fire, took 2 shields and a critical "Blinded Pilot" (new deck). My return fire was weak, 2 shields on Zuckuss. I was pretty shaken and I forgot about the crit, so the following turn I couldn't shoot so I couldn't cloak so I died. I don't remember if I destroyed anything that round.

Lessons learned: Never discount a move from your opponent, even if it's a move that will put him in a bad position for many of your choices.

Game 5 was against a party bus Bossk (Dengar zuckuss 4-lom), N'dru and Manaroo. He had a good approach, Bossk and Manaroo down the middle, N'dru down my right. I was on the left with all, tried to be very aggressive. I hoped I would get Bossk down in 2 turns and live up to that damage. I managed to get an engagement with Whisper safe from a torpedo shot, but I did very little damage (3 damage on Bossk in exchange for 3 damage - hit/hit/direct hit on Whisper if I recall). A very quick game indeed, couldn't even kill Bossk, but I did kill N'dru with a lucky shot from the Inquisitor (hit hit direct hit).

Lessons learned: I still have no idea how to approach this matchup. Kill the party bus with the shuttle?

Game 6 and the final game was against a Tel Trevura, Torkill, Contracted Scout list. We played in his right hand side corner, with the initial exchange being at range 3 on Torkil. On the second turn, he PS0-ed the Inquisitor, but Whisper was able to kill Torkill off. In the following knife-fight, he had to turn Trevura away, which let me focus fire the Contracted Scout down. Tel Trevura was destroyed shortly after (twice). He did get some torpedoes off, but I don't more than one per turn, which I was able to absorb on my aces.


All in all, I went 3-3 (bye included), so just a hair short of abysmal, I think I was rank 70 out of 130 or something like that. But the good part was that I had things to learn from all of my matchups. Some dice went my way, the greens not so much, I think I took hit-hit-crit on my phantom 3 times in 6 games, that has to be something special. I was highest at table 5, but dropped quickly. I only played against Scum the whole day, while only getting one triple jumpmaster list, and one double, the rest were all very different, but all had at least one jumpmaster.

I knew I wasn't going to change the list anyway, and I definitely felt that I could have turned my losses into wins with better play (and maybe some dumb luck in my 5th). 5 games was enough, I was ready for Day 1 of Yavin!

I would like to thank all my opponents at the Regional, everybody was super friendly and nice.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Armada Dice part I: Ship to Ship

I'm going to do an article or two on Armada, since I've been playing this just as much as X-wing in the last weeks.

One of the things that felt unfamiliar when starting Armada where the dice. Just like any new game, I did not have a "feel" for the dice. I did not know what to expect from them, if one roll was good or one wasn't. You might say that it's better not to know so you can't blame the dice when you lose! This is partly true, because you may want to gauge your performance realistically, to know how to play it better next time!

Armada dice and probabilities

This has been covered by many people, but we need this for this article as well. The basics of Armada dice are as follows: there are three types of attack dice, each representing a certain weapon type, having a maximum range and hit characteristics. Red dice are turbolasers, blue dice are ion weapons, black dice are missiles.

Red dice are the long-range weapons, that have a rather high variance of damage: there's 3/8 chance that you don't add a hit, but you also have 1/8 chance of a double hit. The average damage is 0.75 per die.

Blue dice are medium range dice. Though they have the same average damage (0.75) as red dice, the damage is more spread out, so you have lower variance among rolls. You also have 2 accuracy symbols, which help a lot in combat.

Black dice are brute force, 1 average damage per die, with a 25% probability of a hit+crit. While they can also come out blank, you are more likely to get good damage out of them. They also have no accuracy symbols, so they're better if mixed with other dice types.

Thoughts on combat 

 

While Armada does not have defense dice like X-wing, it does give ships and elite squadrons some defense tokens. In the rest of the article I will talk about damage dealt to a ship. Talking strictly on the current defense tokens:
  • Redirect does not affect damage dealt. It's still damage on the ship. The VSD has 10 shields, but shooting it over the course of the game you won't be able to fire on the same hull zone. Most of the times you'll start from one side and by the time you kill it you'll be on the other side shooting at it. At its weakest the VSD would look like 9HP (8 Hull 1 Shield), if you deplete all shields it will be 18HP. The actual situation will be closer to 18HP, even more if the Imperial player stacks combo Repair commands (+token).
  • Evade gets rid of 1 or 2 damage, so it affects damage dealt. 
  • Brace cuts the damage in half and is the most important defense medium ships (VSD, AFMkII) have. This token reduces damage on an attack by 2-4 damage, which is a lot in the context of a single round. Of course this will be much smaller if the attacker rolls very few dice, and might not be relevant at all against swarms of small ships (Corvette swarms firing 1-2 dice). 
If  our goal is to reduce damage taken throughout the course  of the game, each round we must guess which attack will have the highest resulting damage and keep the Brace token for that attack. Spending a brace twice is of course a reasonable action in some situations, but that is a topic for another time. Suppose we have the highest attack first, then we use Brace on that. Assuming we're piloting a VSD, we use Redirect more liberally afterwards (also subject for discussion for some other time).

Script for calculating damage dealt


What I'm getting at is the core of my calculation for damage dealt to a ship, specifically to a VSD. This is more interesting since it is relevant in all games, from 180pt to 400pts: How much damage will you deal to the VSD this round? I will make the following assumptions:
  • Attacks will be directed at the front, so there will be plenty of room for redirects
  • The first attack will carry most dice or at least have the most likely highest hit result. I will always brace on the first attack if it saves me a damage. Unused defense tokens carry over to the next attack
  • Redirects are from a "shared" pool, in this case 6HP worth of shields
  • The attacker will limit the use of Brace, Redirect and Evade, in that order (with accuracy symbols). If the tokens are used he will not limit them (also a good point of discussion for strategy)
I explore the tree of possibilities (tokens used, damage taken, shields available for redirect etc.). I sum probabilities on scenarios that share common criteria (in this case I aggregate according to total damage dealt in the end, including redirected shields). In this fashion I was able to calculate some average damage and draw some conclusions.

Single CR90

 

Let's take a look at the damage dealt by a single Corvette, firing from its front hull zone at medium range. That's 2 red dice and 1 blue, for a maximum of 5 damage (not possible given that the VSD has Brace).  You can do maximum 4 damage to the VSD if you have 2 double hits and an accuracy to forbid Brace. What you can also notice is that 0 damage is very unlikely, in stark contrast with X-wing. Here, there is no "barrier of entry", you don't have to exceed green dice. When shooting at a Star Destroyer, you're going to do at least 1 damage if you have at least 1 hit/crit symbol in your roll (because it doesn't have Evade). This becomes especially important in squad vs. ship scenarios.

 If you are on the offensive you will probably have a Concentrate Fire command ready on the Corvette. Perhaps you will try adding a third red die first. But red dice have blanks and only one accuracy, so you're not getting rid of that Brace too easily. There is a net increase in damage, but you'll find more average damage with an extra blue die.

 As can be seen in the next graph, just adding a blue instead of a red boosts average damage from 2.23 to 2.31. You can see the difference clearly in the upper and lower limits. 3 Red dice and 1 Blue have 1.32% chance of doing 0 damage, while 2Red 2Blue have only 0.88%.


Conclusion nr 1: Add blue dice over red dice if possible!

 

Double arcs with the CR90


 With a Corvette it's not so hard to get a target in two arcs (front and one side). You might think that the side is too weak, only two dice. It turns out that shooting one more time is significantly better than just adding one die (naturally, since there's two), and it's almost twice as good as the first frontal attack! This may be a bit surprising, until you consider that Brace won't be used for two attacks (especially not 2-3 damage attacks), so the second attack actually has a higher expected damage than what it would normally be, since it will not be Braced for (unless Brace was not used in the first attack)!
Conclusion 2: Getting double arcs on a target is more important than commands

Ok, clearly we're starting to be confident in our little corvette. Let's put Concentrate Fire on it while it has this brilliant double arc. We should probably add a blue die, but to which attack? Do we want a large attack and a small one, or two balanced ones? Again, because of the Brace token, we need to split hits between attacks, such that one Brace use cancels as few hits as possible. If we boost the already-large front dice pool, we have 2-2-0 (2 Red 2 Blue) and 1-1-0 on the sides, which amounts to 3.54 average damage. But if we enhance the weaker side (2-1-0 and 1-2-0), we get 3.60 average damage. It's not much, but every bit counts!

Conclusion 3: Even out dice pools if possible!

Bring on the Assault Frigate


We reached 3.60 damage in a round, but we want to bring down that Star Destroyer. We need bigger guns! Let's take a state of the art Assault Frigate mkII with Paragon title, Enhanced Armaments. Enhancement Armaments add a Red die to the side, while Paragon adds 1 Black die to the second attack made on the same ship (which we will get if we have a double arc). This is much harder to do with an Assault Frigate than with Corvettes, but has the advantage of possibly setting this up on the approach and while running away (the rear hull zone is as good as the front). What may surprise you is that Concentrate Fire may add 1 Black die to the second attack!



What we have learned so far is that we want to add the strongest die. Currently this is the Black die, at 1 average damage. We could add this to the stronger attack (2-1-0 from the front and 4-1-2 from the side), or we could balance out the attacks (4-1-0 and 2-1-2). The latter comes out as more efficient, as our newly bred intuition told us, with a 6.45 average damage (vs. 6.34). First this seems great, and feels great too! Dishing out 10 damage to a Star Destroyer definitely seems the best choice. But then again, this isn't much more than double what a single aligned CR90s would do (with no Concentrate Fire!).

Back to CR90(s)

 

Clearly this is a much riskier scenario, and one of the Corvettes might die this round, but let's see how much damage we can muster just by aligning arcs, no Concentrate Fire! These are 10 dice just like the Paragon attacks, but without any black dice and spread across 4 attacks. No attack is obstructed because you attack with the first one, move, survive the VSDs assault, then fire with the second CR90.
... about the same damage. With the same distribution. The brace on the bigger attack cancels out with the black dice on the second, so you get about the same average as with reds and blues.

Conclusion 4: You can achieve the same result with 1 big ship with quality dice or with several smaller with average dice

There are a few things to take from this: Pre-planning is ok, getting that Concentrate Fire when you need it is great, but getting good arcs is substantially better. The more dice you throw at your opponent, the better! This sounds simple, and it was also true in X-wing, but here the expected damage increases linearly, even with the use of defense tokens. It's also important to make the good small decisions, which add up: should I add a blue die or a red die to my pool? Should I add an extra die to this attack or to this one?